Facebook has 10 tips for creating engaging posts:
1. Use engaging copy, images and videos.
2. Create a two-way conversation.
3. Share exclusive discounts and promotions.
4. Provide access to exclusive information.
5. Be timely.
6. Plan your conversational calendar.
7. Schedule your posts.
8. Target your posts.
9. Use link posts to drive people to your website.
10. Review the performance of your posts.
Based on those tips, it’s evident that many factors can influence the success of Facebook posts. For example, upon examining the Facebook page insights for the Facebook page of my own site, ThisisReno, a community news website in Reno, Nevada, the timing of posts is critical. We see our best engagement in the evening, around 8 to 9 p.m. Pacific time most days.
In addition to timing, other factors can impact the success of Facebook posts. Did the post receive early traction? That is, soon after the post was published, did “likes” and shares begin immediately? If so, those posts tend to do better than posts that appear initially in news feeds but don’t receive any audience responses. Facebook seems to reward posts that receive high levels of early engagement while reducing the views of posts that don’t receive quick attention.
For seasoned social media managers, this may not be news, but for many Facebook users, tips such as using high quality images may be useful for improving Facebook posts. Paying close attention to a page’s insights can reveal numerous ways to monitor success and adjust posting strategies.
Moreover, it’s critical to think ahead. Is it more important to receive a greater reach, or are shares and or comments more beneficial? The answer lies in what it is you are communicating. Comments show engagement (for example, “Caption this image…”) while shares tend to increase the virality of the post. Both can be advantageous, depending on what you are trying to achieve. In this case, do you want dialogue with your audience with more comments, do you want the post to go viral, or both?
In general, shares seem to be the most powerful form of engagement, as opposed to “likes,” because likes can better dovetail off of shares of your content by other users. In our experience, “likes” don’t seem to generate shares. Reach, similarly, can be an underestimated metric. Some posts may benefit from having more eyeballs see your content as opposed to having a vigorous discussion in the comments.
That said, don’t underestimate the various metrics. Depending on the post type, for example, asking a question, engagement may be high while reach may be low. Conversely, posts with a higher reach may also have limited engagement.
Ideally, greater reach combined with high numbers of likes, shares and comments make the most successful posts. Posts with the greater reach seem to also have higher engagement, and vice versa.
It’s important to note that there is no clear-cut recipe for success when it comes to Facebook posts. What may go viral one day may receive little traction only a day later. In 2013, we posted a NASA satellite image of Yosemite’s Rim Fire. It went viral, by our standards, with a reach of more than 70,000 and hundreds of shares. A year later, a very similar NASA image of California’s King Fire gained little attention in comparison.
What seems to be effective over time is content that is consistently relevant to your audiences, a mix of media (photos, videos, text and offers) and calls to action: encouraging your audiences to engage with posts. Simply linking to website content, as a common, asymmetrical communication strategy, may have diminishing returns over time.
Also, since the nature of Facebook is inherently (and obviously) social, brands benefit not from being self-centered but rather active participants of their online communities. This means sharing the content of others.
What are your Facebook posting strategies, and where do you see the most success? Please comment below.
Bob Conrad, Ph.D., APR, is a multifaceted communicator. He is the public information officer for the Nevada Department of Agriculture and is seasoned in crisis communications, social media and integrated marketing communications. He’s also co-founder of the community news website, ThisisReno.com.